Alumni on the move

Alumni On The Move - May 2019

Jeff Racicot

Portland Leadership Discovery, Class of 2016

EDI: Hey Jeff! We heard about your recent promotion into management. CONGRATULATIONS! We would love to learn more about it. Help tell our readers, about the recent promotion.

Jeff:  As of December 2018, I began my leadership position as the manager of metering services at BPA.  This is a great opportunity to use my newly established tools recently acquired through the EDI program.  This opportunity requires the ability to provide good customer service, along with using technical skills to solve complex problems.  I’m excited!

EDI: How did this opportunity present itself?

Jeff:  I put my name in the hat when the position became available.  One thing EDI helped me with is to “put myself in the pipeline” and continue looking for opportunities to improve.  After leadership training and taking on increasingly challenging projects/roles, this was a chance to put myself out there and it worked out nicely.

EDI: Where there any intentional steps that you took to prepare yourself for a management role? If so, what where they?

Jeff:  Constantly finding opportunities to lead projects, give presentations, or take leadership training were all intentional steps that have prepared me to move forward.  In addition, while in EDI I sought the guidance of a mentor.  All of these steps helped propel me forward and gain the confidence needed to move into leadership.

EDI: Now as a manager, have there been any challenges that you’ve faced? If so, what?

Jeff:  Being a first time manager is a huge paradigm shift.  All of a sudden, you are noticed at every step.  What you say matters more.  How you act leaves stronger impressions.  These are all challenges, but I also find them as opportunities to continue using leadership skills and self-awareness to lead effectively.

EDI: How do you overcome those challenges?  

Jeff:  I like to treat challenges as opportunities.  As taught in EDI, you have to lean in.  Lean in to the hard talks, the difficult conversations, the conflicts, etc.  These all are opportunities to leave a positive outcome.

EDI: What do you hope to accomplish in your new position?

Jeff:  In my new role, I hope to make a positive difference with my staff, the organization, the agency and ultimately the Pacific Northwest.  As a manager in a large Power Marketing Agency that serves the Pacific Northwest, I hope to use all of my leadership potential to make a positive difference.

EDI: Is there anything from your EDI learnings that you’re applying to your current position or during the transition? (if no, that’s fine!)

Jeff:  Understanding behavioral styles has been a nice tool to have.  Behavioral Styles were taught in EDI, and I have embraced the fact that my personality and behavior are two different things.  You can adjust your behavior to adapt to other behavioral styles, and this has been helpful.

EDI: You balance a lot having been promoted to management, being a family man with a wife and three kids, volunteering for EDI as a program chair this year and last year…how do you ensure you have work/life balance?

Jeff:  I make it a priority to make sure I’m focusing on the right things in life.  It’s like brushing your teeth – as soon as you make all the important things in your life a priority, it becomes easier because you now know where you put your energy.  Being an EDI program chair is great by the way.

EDI: If you could give one piece of advice to the 2019 EDI class what would it be?  

Jeff:  Enjoy the ride!  Leadership and growth is a never-ending journey.  Embrace the journey and always keep learning.

EDI: Thanks so much for your time, Jeff! Congratulations again on your promotion and we can’t wait to hear more from you as your journey unfolds!

Jeff:  Thank you!

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We are proud of our alums and the impact they are making around the world. Each month we feature an alum that we have heard is making waves in their company or in their communities on our Alumni On The Move series. If you’re an alum or know one that is really making a positive impact for those around them let us know! We feature anything from alums starting their own companies or side hustles, receiving a promotion, taking a risk and trying a new industry or organization within their own company, joining non-profit committees and Boards, or winning awards! Contact us at edi@ediorg.org

Alumni On The Move - March 2019

Hong Chhuor

Puget Sound Leadership Discovery Class of 2016

My very first opera ever was La bohème. Someone from Seattle Opera came to my high school senior literature class to invite us to see a performance of one of Puccini’s most enduring favorites – for free! This last part is important to mention because I would not have been able to go otherwise.

When I was growing up, my parents worked long hours at low-paying jobs to support their five children so we could all become doctors, lawyers or engineers one day. They fled the Khmer Rouge, which means they left their country, families, and dreams behind. In the U.S., they lacked a community where they could celebrate their culture, including dance, art, and other traditions. It should come as no surprise that instilling a love of opera was not a priority for them.

And so it was that through Seattle Opera, I came to learn about an entire world of music, stories, and art beyond Wagner’s magnificent Valkyries, whom I really only knew about because I saw caricatures of them in episodes of Looney Toons as a kid. I don’t remember much about how my first opera went, but I do remember falling asleep in the cool, dark performance hall as I experienced this uniquely western art form for the first time (shhh – don’t tell my employer).

I could never have imagined that one day, I would help lead Seattle Opera’s fundraising team. Prior to my current role as Associate Director of Development, I served as the Marketing and Communications Manager at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), which is a social justice focused health and human services nonprofit that serves immigrant, refugee and native-born Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and others. You may be wondering about my transition from 1) social services to the arts 2) marketing and communications to fundraising and 3) a manager level role to a director-level role. I’ll share my thoughts on each, but to be honest, it was not a path that I could see very clearly while I was walking on it. Hindsight is 20/20, they say.

Firstly, my experience with EDI’s Leadership Discovery program at the same time that I was working at ACRS helped me to connect the dots in terms of my heritage and identity as an Asian American refugee. All of the combined learnings and insights I gained as a result of the program as well as my growth at my job helped me identify what I wanted from my career. I gained clarity about my values, which made it easier to make choices when I found myself at significant crossroads.

I realized that I found fulfillment in connecting people with causes and issues they care about and helping them to invest their time and resources in ways that are meaningful to them.

While I still care very much about advocating for and empowering AAPI immigrants and refugees, moving to Seattle Opera was about recognizing the power of stories, music, and art to change hearts and minds, and helping us find meaning in our lives. Leaving ACRS was very difficult and what helped me with the decision was the realization that I can continue to love ACRS and be a part of its strong community without working there.

My job title at ACRS hid the fact that some of my primary responsibilities included fundraising as well as managing people and processes. I was fortunate to have support from my manager and my organization to build up my professional experience through hands-on learning, formal training, and coaching and mentorship from others in my field. Attending conferences by and for professional fundraisers really helped me to learn what skills I needed and wanted to develop. It also helped me feel like I was part of a community of people with whom I shared a calling.

In more ways than one, the experiences I gained through ACRS and EDI laid the groundwork for my role at Seattle Opera – almost as if the role was written for me. My overarching goal right now is to help people connect with and find meaning and connection through opera and the community around it. This is not so different from helping people connect with their desire to be part of a larger social justice movement. Through managing people and processes (which is a central part of my role at Seattle Opera), I have an appreciation for how doing these things well contributes to the ability of an organization to achieve its mission and vision. And just like ACRS did a few months ago, Seattle Opera is about to get a new leader. That will bring a whole host of change that will need to be thoughtfully navigated. Thanks to ACRS, I have experience with that, too!

I’m excited for the challenges of my new role, which includes an expanded fundraising team doing things I really only have textbook knowledge about (like major giving, capital campaigns and planned giving). I recently earned my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation and am thrilled to continue my journey as a professional fundraiser – not to mention all of the opera I’ll get to enjoy. Ask me about my friends and family discount – I’d love to welcome you to an upcoming opera.

If I were to leave the 2019 EDI class with some advice, it would be this: push yourself out of your comfort zone and GROW. Don’t let superficial things like job titles limit your dreams. Network, network, network. Find a mentor and serve as a mentor to others.

Hong Chhuor

EDI Class of 2016

Alumni On The Move - January 2019

Greena George

Leadership Navigation, Class of 2018

Working Through Stagnation

Throughout my life, from kindergarten through to high school and then in college, the expectations were clear; study, then graduate. The buildup through the time always had the same crescendo – graduation. The expectation with regards to performance was simply to exceed. As an Indian, exceeding was important, especially since I would be competing with another billion Indians.

That changed once I entered the workforce. I started working in Boeing, and things were different. Set milestones aren’t really what I’m graded on. Excelling didn’t result in clear quantifiable promotions. In the workforce, everything is qualitative and relative to another person. I thought I was doing the right things, and things were going well for a few years, but then I started stagnating. My career was not on the trajectory I expected. I worked incredibly hard, only to get frustrated. My managers and peers kept telling me I was doing all the right things, but to me, my career was stagnating. I was frustrated, miserable and considering quitting my job because I just didn’t feel appreciated. I decided to give it six more months before leaving the company I truly enjoyed.

Then things changed. I decided to do EDI’s Leadership Navigation and the course opened my eyes to the perception my peers and I have of me versus the perception Boeing’s leaders have of me. Fundamentally, my interactions with managers gave them a perception that I wasn’t someone who would do well in advanced opportunities, including management. Hearing that was painful, but seeing it reinforced through 360 survey results was eye-opening. I knew that unless I corrected that perception, I would never have the career projection I wanted.

After multiple coaching sessions with my EDI coach, I had several conversations with key influential individuals in the Boeing Company. I realized by building relationships with these influencers, they would advocate on my behalf. By strengthening the relationships I already had, and by getting several advocates, I changed the perception the leaders had of me. With that change in perception, a leader decided to take a chance on me. Halfway through the EDI program, I received a promotion into management. I’m 100% certain that it wouldn’t have happened unless I had participated in EDI. The conversations I had strengthened my relationship with my managers and leaders and resulted in me not only staying with the company but also earn that much sought after promotion, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Now, I take the lessons I learned in EDI and apply them diligently for myself and my team.

EDI helped me understand this key concept – while there is no clear roadmap in the workforce, with deliberate thought and care, one can have their desired outcome. Thank you, EDI!


Alvin Lai

Leadership Discovery, Class of 2015

I graduated from the EDI Leadership Discovery Program (Class of 2015) and recently transitioned into a finance management role at the Boeing Company. My team of Estimating & Pricing Specialist protects the Enterprise and strives for sustained business growth through business case development and financial analysis.

As I reflect back on my journey as an individual contributor into a formal management role – below are 3 takeaways that I have acquired through EDI and other development avenues that I have found valuable in my career thus far:

1) Intentional Branding: Apple, Tesla, and Uber are viewed by the public as innovative and game-changing. Every company and product has a brand and believe it or not, so do YOU. What’s your brand? Every action that you take or don’t take shapes someone’s perception of you. Your actions can determine the difference between being viewed as smart, influential and inspirational vs. deficient, ill-prepared and average. As a leader, don’t leave those perceptions to chance. Be intentional about your Leadership Brand. Below are a few tips on how.

a. Step #1 (Intentional Brand): Gather an intentional collection of characteristics (start with 3) that describes how you would like to be perceived and always ensure that these characteristics align with your core values (ex. Humble).

b. Step #2 (Develop Plan): Be strategic and determine what you need to do each day to demonstrate your intentional brand (Ex. When supporting individual or team projects I will always compliment and recognize team members for their success)

c. Step #3 (Take Action): Take action and provide the public with evidence of your brand each day. Be intentional with every action that you take and your intentional brand will come across.

2) Being Extraordinary: Every moment, we have an opportunity to generate an experience, reputation, and a better relationship. Becoming extraordinary doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and is something that needs to be tackled one day at a time. Below are a few tips on how.

a. Tip #1 (Generate an Experience): Let others experience what it feels like to work with someone that is extraordinary. When you are given a task, do it well but also do one thing that no one expects you to do. For example - If you’re tasked with answering question XYZ, anticipate follow on questions and answer those as well.

b. Tip #2 (Reputation): Figure out if there are negative perceptions of you due to age, gender, ethnicity, experience, etc. Once you figure out the negative perceptions – prove the audience wrong immediately. For example – if you’re perceived as lazy you could 1) volunteer for a project that no one wants 2) ask others if they need help 3) be the first one in the office and last to leave.

c. Tip #3 (Relationships): Invest in relationships and make friends. Compliment someone who doesn’t expect it and make an effort to connect on more than just work-related items because relationships are important. Why? Keeping everything the same (skill set, experience, etc.) who do you think the Board of Directors will elect as the next CEO - someone they have known for the past 15 years and have a great relationship with or someone they barely know?

3) Be Authentic: Never try to be someone that you’re not because we are not very good at being someone else and will come off as fake. Instead be your authentic self because it’s what we do best. At the same time, be mindful of the perceptions that others have of you and take intentional actions if needed to impact those perceptions.

As we start a new year I am renewing my commitment to being an authentic leader and also being intentional each day. I challenge you to do the same. Happy New Year to the EDI Family – Cheers!!

Alumni On The Move - May 2018

Katherine Tsai Martinez (2nd from left) with the Matt Griffin YMCA Board

Puget Sound Discovery, Class of 2017

Since graduating from the 2017 Leadership Discovery Program, I have been busy holding myself accountable on defining what my authentic best is and practicing it daily. One of the major takeaways from the program was, the longer I continued to create boundaries and limits on what I can and cannot do, I will never be the authentic leader that I want to be.

Being inspired to take chances, I successfully transitioned into a new finance role a few months before graduating from the Discovery Program. After being in Supplier Management at Boeing for two years, I accepted a role at Boeing Capital as a Treasury and Risk Analyst. I have never been one to not push myself to excel in the workplace but through EDI’s Leadership Discovery Program, I realized that I wanted to be a strong contributor at work, whom not only performs at their job functions but leads and inspires others as a diverse leader. In addition, I have become more active in Boeing’s Asian Professionals Association where I am currently the Co-Chair for their 2018 LEAD program. The LEAD program is an 8-month leadership program focused on developing diverse Boeing Professionals within the company.

The Discovery Program's community service project inspired me to be active again in the community. For our team project, we chose to support the Matt Griffin YMCA and held a fundraising event which generated more than $2,000 for their after-school programs. Seeing the impact of our fundraiser, I was compelled to join the Matt Griffin Board. 

I’m so appreciative of everything that I learned from EDI. I have made some great relationships from the program, it is so nice to have a genuine network. I am proud of where I am at both professionally and personally. Thanks to EDI, I can confidently say that I am a leader that graciously welcomes new challenges and refuses to create boundaries and limits on what I can and cannot do.


Jacob Esparza

Puget Sound Discovery, Class of 2015

I recently accepted an amazing opportunity at Facebook as a Program Manager.  I am working on a team called Business Integrity New Products where I am a central point leading cross-functional teams in identifying risks to new product launches.  My role is responsible for assessing risks, influencing policy creation, creating review processes, and facilitating the setup of KPIs to track success.  This role was a huge opportunity for me after I made the jump from aerospace into tech last year.

EDI has played a huge part in my successes since graduating. The EDI lessons that stuck with me were the importance of not only networking but using my network to help build my confidence to make big moves through being self-aware and to always push myself. The ability to continuously use the tools that EDI helped fill my toolbox with is a priceless gift that I am very thankful to have received.

I am extremely honored by this new adventure and am also excited to start using one of the other things that EDI taught me, which is giving back.  My husband and I are partnering with the rescue that we adopted one of our dogs from to throw a fundraising event to support their efforts in rescuing dogs, cats and horses from Mexico and finding them homes.  We are huge dog lovers and are looking forward to giving back to an organization that means a lot to us!